Last week I attended the Committee for Geelong’s Annual Leadership Breakfast – the first in my capacity as Chief Executive Officer.

We were very fortunate to have the City of Melbourne Lord Mayor, Cr Sally Capp, as our guest speaker.

Cr Capp has had an esteemed career – paving the way for women in leadership roles. She was the first female directly-elected Mayor, the first female to hold the post of Agent-General for Victoria in the UK, Europe, and Israel, and in 2014, made history as the first female board member of the Collingwood Football Club.  She has also previously served as the CEO for the Committee for Melbourne and COO of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It was therefore, and as I’m sure the almost 300 community and business leaders in attendance of the breakfast would attest, a fantastic and inspiring morning hearing her leadership learnings and optimism for the future.

The Lord Mayor shared some incredible insights into the City of Melbourne’s initiatives, and the opportunities and challenges that Victoria is currently facing.

According to Cr Capp, Melbourne is the fastest growing city in Australia with Geelong at number two. She spoke of the balance and challenge of managing population growth, which is vital to ensuring there are bright opportunities for all.

However, it was recognised by Cr Capp that our two cities are absolutely interlinked as we move forward. So what can the Geelong business community learn from Victoria’s capital?

It was startling to hear that in Australia, we virtually have no track record of commercialising our own intellectual property (IP) into ‘unicorns,’ (a privately held start-up company valued at over $1 billion).

According to Cr Capp, Australia ranks number two in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for research and development, and yet, out of 36 countries, we rank 32nd in commercialising our intellectual property.

Cr Capp urged the Geelong business community to consider how we support a start-up ecosystem so that we are empowering people to create or expand businesses that in turn, supports our economy and generates wealth and prosperity.

Geelong is a city built on makers, creators and dreamers. We are developing a strong local entrepreneurial network with supports including organisations and initiatives like the Geelong Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Map (GEEMap) Project, Deakin’s Spark Program and Manufutures at Waurn Ponds, Runway Geelong, G2 Innovation and The Gordon’s Skilling the Bay Destination Entrepreneur program.  With a long history of invention and design, we must build on our knowledge and skills to continue our clever and creative journey.

But, how can we continue to capitalise and commercialise our own innovation so that we are internationally recognised and tell our story as a UNESCO Creative City of Design?

It was exciting to hear that Melbourne’s start-up ecosystem showed after recent benchmarking, that they are ahead of other start-up ecosystems like Boston, Silicon Valley and Shanghai, when they were at the same developmental stage.

We need to continue to lead and collaborate. Are there opportunities and partnerships that we can leverage to further propel us onto a world map?

Cr Capp also asked us how we equip our cities for the next generation. She shared the importance of governance frameworks – particularly where government intersects with business. Cr Capp stated that government sometimes needs to listen and be led by the private sector in how we can work more effectively. Are there ways the Geelong business community can find better ways to work and inform all tiers of government?

Cr Capp challenged the Geelong business community to look for those opportunities that create positive change, and followed it with her personal motto from Edward Hale:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

It’s a time for collaborative leadership – will you put up your hand?

Published via the Geelong Advertiser, 27/02/2019

Photo Credit: Alan Barber